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Thyroid Disease Screening

Thyroid disease occurs when the thyroid gland, part of the endocrine system, malfunctions either because it produces too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) thyroid hormone. If left untreated, health problems can occur ranging from issues with metabolism, cardiac and nervous system function, sleep disturbances, changes in mood, increased irritability, constipation, fatigue, and muscle weakness.

There are several underlying causes for a thyroid disorder. Blood tests, along with radiologic screenings, are the most commonly used methods for diagnosing a thyroid condition. Most thyroid problems, if properly diagnosed and managed under the supervision of your physician, are easily treatable through medication, radioiodine treatment, and if needed, surgery.

Screening for Thyroid Disease

  • TSH Screening for Thyroid Function and Disease
    • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), produced by the pituitary gland in the brain, plays a key role in regulating thyroid hormone production. An abnormal TSH level can cause the thyroid gland to malfunction and lead to a variety of health issues.
    • A simple blood test, the TSH screening helps determine how well your thyroid gland is functioning and helps screen for thyroid disease by measuring blood TSH levels.

Who should get a TSH screening?

Women have a 2 to 10 times greater chance of developing a thyroid disorder than men. Adults who are over 60 as well as women who have been pregnant or have delivered a baby within the last six months are also at higher risk. Other at risk groups include those with a family history of thyroid disease, those who have been treated for a thyroid problem, those who have had neck surgery or radiation, as well as anyone with a vitamin B12 deficiency known as pernicious anemia, type 1 diabetes, or primary adrenal insufficiency.

  • Women have a 2 to 10 times greater risk for a thyroid disorder
  • Adults over 60 years of age
  • Women who have been pregnant or have delivered a baby within the last six months
  • Those with a family history of thyroid disease
  • Those who have been treated for a thyroid problem
  • Those who have had neck surgery or radiation
  • Anyone with pernicious anemia (a vitamin B12 deficiency)
  • Those with type 1 diabetes
  • Those with primary adrenal insufficiency

How often should I get a TSH Screening?

  • If you already take synthetic thyroid hormone replacement, you should have a TSH blood test at least one per year.
  • If you have a history of thyroid problems and are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, consult your physician as you may require more frequent testing.
  • The American Thyroid Association recommends measuring thyroid function in all adults beginning at age 35 and every five years thereafter.

How do I prepare for a TSH Screening?

  • There is no fasting required in preparation for a screening

Warning signs

Some symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Nervousness or irritability
  • Heat intolerance
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Fatigue or muscle weakness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Goiter
  • Mood swings
  • Rapid and irregular heartbeat
  • Hand tremors

Some symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Weight gain
  • Sleepiness
  • Dry skin/brittle fingernails
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss
  • Decrease in cognitive function

Risk factors

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Previous thyroid problems
  • Surgery or radiation to the neck
  • Type I Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Pernicious anemia (B12 deficiency)
  • Primary adrenal insufficiency (hormonal disorder)
  • Excessive iodine consumption
  • Taking too much synthetic thyroid medication

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